Introducing Infants to Solids
Homemade vs. commercial products
A wide range of commercial baby foods are now available in stores across Australia, targeting parents and carers. These products were the spotlight of media articles recently, which reported findings from UK research on the nutritional content of commercially available infant foods versus home-made foods.
The Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines (2012) recommend that solid foods are introduced at around 6 months, to meet the infant’s increasing nutritional and developmental needs which reflects the WHO recommendations. WHO also states that ‘foods should be adequate, meaning that they provide sufficient energy, protein and micronutrients to meet a growing child’s nutritional needs’.
Ready-made foods are convenient for parents but are expensive. The UK research also found that many of the commercially available infant foods in stores are aimed at infants from 4 months and that these foods are more likely to have lower nutritional value than home-made family foods e.g. mashed potato chicken, stewed apple and banana.
The UK study found that:
- Nearly half (44%) of the 452 products analysed were targeted at infants who were four months or older and 65% were classified as sweet.
- Commercially available rusks and biscuits were on average more energy dense and contained high amounts of iron and calcium, but also tended to be high in sugar.
- The majority of products had energy content similar to breast milk and would therefore not serve the intended purpose of enhancing the nutrient density and diversity of taste and texture in infants’ diets.
However the researchers relied on the manufacturer’s website for the nutritional content of the foods, which may not accurately reflect actual nutritional content. The actual taste and texture was also not assessed even though the products were classified by taste (sweet or savoury) and texture (dry, wet, ready-made).
How to use this information in your setting:
- Ensure all educators are up to date with the current Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines and recommendations (www.eatforhealth.gov.au)
- Undertake the free LEAPS professional development program (email firstname.lastname@example.org) and promote to other educators working in early childhood settings
- Write an article in your setting’s e-newsletter, newsletter or provide information in appropriately aged children’s pockets on introducing solids etc
- Discuss with individual parents any issues of commercial products being brought into centres, including squeezy products
- Provide recipes on the first foods that should be introduced to babies
- Refer to Get Up & Grow resources at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/phd-early-childhood-nutrition-resources